6 corrections, most recently by anonymous - Show corrections
DETAILED REPORTS OF THE TRIAL.
FIVE MAIN CHARGES.
At Pietersburg, on 1th January, the trial hy general1 court-martial of Lieutenants H. H. Morant, P. J. Handcock, Picton, and Witton, all -of the Bushveldt Carbineers, was begun (says a Durban,, cable in Die " Chronicle" of 17th April). 'TJiclcnurt was composed, of Lieutenant-Colonel Denny (president) and five other officers. Major Copland was judge advocate, and Captain Burns-Begg public prosecutor.
The prisoners were charged with the murder of a wounded Boer prisoner named Visser. They pleaded not guilty, and were defended by Major Thomas, Now South
Wales Mounted Rifles.
Sergeant S. Robertson stated that he re- membered the fight at Devil's Kloof, when Captain Hunt and Sergeant Hunt were killed. Captain Hunt's body was found to have been stripped. He took the bodies, bock to Reuter'B farm, where the party was reinforced by Lieutenants Morant, Handcock, Picton, and Witton. Next morn- ing they went in pursuit of the Boers, overtook them and captured their laager, finding one wounded Boer there. Next day the Boer accompanied the force some dis- tance. During the dinner-hour the accused held a conversation, in which the Boer prisoner, who was in a Cape cart six yards away, appeared to take no part. Morant and an intelligence officer named Ladybore went to Visser (the Boer prisoner), telling him that they wore sorry, but he had been found guilty of being in possession of the late Captain Hunt's clothing, and also of wearing khaki. Witness did not catch what further was said, but was told to warn two men for duty. Witness refused, asking Picton by whoso orders this man was to he shot. He replied that the orders were hy Lord Kitchener, naming a certain date, and wore to the effect that all Boers wearing khaki from that date were to be shot. Witness said he had never seen any such orders, which should have been posted or read regimentnlly.
Cross-examined, witness said the ou trago on the train when Best was killed had em- bittered the men very much. Morant had previously been considerate to prisoners. He was in charge of the firing party that
Corporal Sharp also corroborated, and said that after the firing party had fired Picton discharged his rovolver, apparently
at the dead man's head.
L. Ledebocr deposed that on 10th August last year ho translated the sentence of a court-martial that 'condemned Visser to he shot. Morant, Picton, Handcock, and Wit- ton formed the court-martial.
PRISONERS PLEAD ORDERS.
Prisoners elected to give evidence on their own behalf. Morant stated that he was under Captain Hunt, with the force charged with clearing the northern district of Boera. It was regular guerilla varfare. Captain Hunt acted on orders he brought from Victoria. On one occasion he nrought in thirty prisoners, when Captain Hunt re- primanded him for bringing them in at all, and told him not to do it again. Wit- ness took command after Captain Hunt was killed, and went with reinforcements. When he learnt the circumstances of Captain Hunt's death, and the way he had been maltreated, he followed the Boers and at- tacked their laager. The Boers cleared, leaving Visser, who had on a soldier's shirt, and was using Captain Hunt's trous- ers as a pillow. He was court-martialled and shot on this account. The others knew of Captain Hunt's orders. Prisoner told them he had previously disregarded them, but after the way the Boers had treated Captain Hunt he would carry out the orders which he regarded as lawful.
Cross-examined, prisoner said Captain Hunt's orders were to clear Spelonken atd take no prisoners,' ,He lind never seen these orders in writing. Captaln Hunt quoted
the action of Kitchener's and Strathconan Horse us precedents. Prisoner had rot previously carried out the orders, because his captures were " a good lot." Ho had shot no prisoners prior to Visser. Captain Hunt told prisoner from whom ho had re- ceived orders not to take prisoners. He never questioned their validity.
Prisoner was asked whether he knew who gave the orders ; but the Judge-Advocate protested against this question, and was uphold by the court, after consultation.
On the resumption of the trial next day, however, the court allowed the question, and prisoner Morant stated that Colonel Hamilton, military secretary, was the one who had given Captain Hunt the orders that no prisoners were to be taken. Others received these orders from Captain Hunt, including Handcock. The court-martial was reported to Colonel Hall within a fort- night after it was held. A report vas also sent to Captain Taylor. Prisoner had only Captain Hunt's word for It that Colonel Hamilton had given those orders. Prisoner had made no attempt to get his report of
the court-martial as evidence.
Picton, another of the accused, deposed that he had previously done two years' ser- vice In this war, and gained a D.O.M. un- der Le Galláis. After the capture of Vis- ser, Morant said he was perfectly justified In shooting him. Prisoner said it would be hard lines to shoot him, and asked Morant to call the other officers together. A meeting was held, andiIt was decided to shoot Visser. Prisoner corroborated the statement that he also had received orders from Captain Hunt not to take prisoners. He never questioned the orders, and had been remanded by Hunt for bringing in prisoners. Captain Hunt was very bitter about the death of a friend of his, a lieu- tenant in the Gordon Highlanders, who had been killed In a train wrecked by Boers.
P. J. Handcock, another of the prisoners, deposed that he had attended the trial of Visser- at Morant's request. He corrobo- rated the previous evidence as to the rea- sons for executing Visser and the orders not to take prisoners.
Prisoner Witton also corroborated, and said he was present at a conversation with a Mr. Reuter, from which he gathered that Hunt had been murdered. Reuter said Hunt's neck was broken and his eyes gouged out. Prisoner was guided by his superior officers in regard to the finding of the court-martial. He believed Visser knew that he was being tried, but he was given no opportunity to speak or make a de-
THE CHARGE AGAINST MAJOR
On the 23rd the court sat to hear the case against Major Lenehan. The charge against him was that, being on active ser- vice, he culpably neglected his duty by fall- ing to report the shooting by men of his regiment, the Bushveldt Carbineers, of one man and two boys, these being prisoners, and unarmed. Prisoner pleaded not guilty.
Trooper Botha deposed that three Boers were being brought in by Captain Taylor's Police, and were shot at close quarters by five of his (witness's) corps. Witness re- ported what had been done to Morant in presence of Lenehan.
Trooper Bonny testified to hearing the last witness make his report to Morant.
In his defence the accused denied having heard any such report made to Morant. He had never had any reason to believe that these three Boers had not been killed
in fair fight.
Accused was further charged with hav- ing failed to report that a trooper of the Bushveldt Carbineers had been shot by
Lieutenant Handcock. He pleaded not guilty.
Lieutenant Edwards deposed that he re- ceived a confidential letter from Captain Hunt, of which a copy was made, the ori- ginal being forwarded to Pretoria. A post- script to the original had since been torn off. The postcrlpt read : " Will also write details of death of Van Barend ; Handcock shot him." The detachment in which Van Barendd was was only nominally a detach- ment of the corps. No details of Van Burend's death were ever received. Lene- han sent word by witness that he would make a confidential report. It was Hand- cock who reported the death of Van Bu-
Major Bolton gave evidence ni to search- ing prisoner's kit, and finding the letter produced, minus the footnote.
Ex-Captain Robertson bald ho knew Van Burcnd, who was shot on 4th July last. Witness had been warned about Van Burend as one not to (be trusted, and who was sus- pected of thefts of whisky from an officer and of money fiom Kaffirs, and men re- fused to go on duty with him. He was always creating disturbances, and abusing khakis. Wltnus-d, Taylor, and Handcock had a talk over the man, and It was decided he was to bo shot. Handcock and four mon wont ont on the left 1lank, and when it was finished witness told Lenehan ho was prepared to stand a court-martial, as ho had thirty prisoners and Boers were near, und the man might glvo them the slip nnd give them away. Witness was superseded by Hunt. Witness mado a report of this occurrence, and of the ¡.hooting of six mon to the accused. The report made to Lene- han of Von Burend's death was not a true r'Dc. ' He concealed tho true facts in the interest of the corps. Taylor also knew the true facts. Witness also reported the true facU to Hunt. Lenehan had come down to inquire into the charges against witness.
Accused, in his defence, denied that Robertson had ever Informed him of the manner of Van Burend's death. It never occurred to him that the postscript In Hunt's letter Indicated anything suspicious.
Accused said he would have to report the murder when he returned to Pletersburg.
Lieutenant Handcock denied Uiat a moot- ing was held which decided on the shooting
of Van Burend.
EIGHT " MURDERS" INVESTIGATED.
Lloutenants Morant, P. J. Handcock, and G. Witton were then charged with the-mur- der of, or with having instigated others to murder, eight men whose names were un- known. They pleaded not guilty.
Major Bolton prosecuted.
L. H. LcdcJboer deposed that about 20th August last ho was in charge of a party who capburcd ,cight Boors. He handed the prisoners ever to a patrol, and did not know wht became of them.
Trooper Thompson stated that he and Troopers Duckett and Lucas were sent for by Morant, who asked if they were friends of the late Frank Eland, if they knew the late Captain Hunt, and If they had seen Lord Kitchener's proclamation to the effect that " those who take up the ¿frord shall perish by the sword." The Lord, he added, had delivered eight Boers inio their hands, and they were going to shoot them. Lucas objected, hut Morant said. " I have ordert', .and must obey thom, and you are making a mistake if you think you are going to run the show." On the moraine of the 23rd. witness saw a -party with eicht Boers. Morant cave orders, and the prisoners were taken off the road and shot. Handcock fin- ishing off two with his revolver. Morant afterwards told witness that Ihev had to play Into his hands or else they would knotv what to OMDOct. Witness said Hie evidence he had clven at the Court of Inquiry wai. given under pressure, and was untrue. He onlv knew about Hunt's ordcis by hearsaj. Wilton was present at the execution.
Sergeant-Major Hammett and Sergeant I Wrench having corroborating, the prosecu-
tion was then closed.
Counsel for the defence claimed the dis- charge of the prisoners on the ground that the charge was not proven, arguing that they should, if anything, be charged with conspiracy.
Tho court overruled the objection.
Counsel for the defence then said he did not dispute the facts, tout would call evi- dence to show (1) the orders received, (2) what the custom was, having regard to the enemy they were fighting, (3) the practices adopted by other Irregular corps against an
enemy breaking usages of war. , j
The prisoners, having handed in their statements of defence, Civil Surgeon John- son deposed to reprimands administered by Captain Hunt to men brought in prisoners.
Lieutenant Hamman stated that when he was a trooper in the Queensland Mounted Infantry on one occasion at Brankhorst Spruit, in 1900, his squadron took some prisoners, and was 'reprimanded by Colonel Cradock for taking them.
REPRISALS FOR TRAIN WRECKING.
Counsel for the defence pleaded justifi- cation, on "the ground that the Boers in that district were gangs of train wreckers without a head, and their conduct had brought reprisals.
The prosecution submitted that the evi- dence was not denied. The eight men had been shot.
The Judge Advocate refuted the plea of justification. The contention that other corps had done similarly did not make two wrongs right.
Lieutenants Morant and Handcock were next charged with murder in instigating the killing of two Boers and one boy. names unknown. They again pleaded not guilty.
Sergeant-major Hammett deposed that he was one of the patrol which the prisoners accompanied in search of three Boers. It was reported that the Boers were disco- vered, and it was then agreed that when Morant asked, " Do you know Captain Hunt ?" that was to be the signal for shooting them. This was done. The youngest Boer was about 17.
Counsel for the defence urged that it must have been a matter of military know- ledge that the Boers in this district made no »retence Whatever of being under a leader or carrying on recognised warfare.
On 7th February the Military Court sat to hear the charges against Alfred Taylor, who was accused of murder in inciting Sergeant-major Morison, Sergeant Oldham, and others to kill and murder six men, names unknown. Prisoners pleaded not guilty.
Sergeant-major Morison, Bushveldt Car- bineers, deposed that on a certain day in July last he paraded his patrol, and report- ed to Captain Robertson. Accused was present, and said he had intelligence that six Boers with two Waggons were coming in to surrender, but that he would have no prisoners. Witness asked Taylor to repeat his order, which he did, saying if the Boers showed the white flag witness was not to use it.
Sergeant Oldham stated that the previous witness warned him of six Boers, and told him he was to make them fight, and on no account to bring them in alive. The Boers were ambushed. There was a man in front of a waggon holding a white flag, and a great noise in the waggon. Witness stopped the fire, thinking there might be women and children, but since they found only six men, as described in the orders, they were taken out and shot. Wltness addressed his report of the affair to Captain Taylor, by Morrison's orders. Captain Robertson complained, and the report was re addressed to him. Neither Taylor nor Ro- bertson was present at the shooting of the
The accused elected to give evidence in his own defence. (He said that during July, last year, he was in charge of natives and intelligence work. He was formerly a lieutenant in Plumer's Scouts, and came down on special service. No part of his instructions authorised him not to take prisoners. He had no military command. His instructions went to the officer com- manding the detachment of Bushveld Carbi- neers. Witness received intelligence of certain Boors coming in to surrender, but never of the 'party of six. He never gave Morrison any orders, and knew nothing about the six Boera, nor had he asked for a patrol to meet them. The first Intima- tion he had received of the charge of six Boers having been shot was made yester-
day in court.
ALLEGED MURDER OF A NATIVE.
A second charge was preferred against the same prisoner in respect of the murder
of a native.
1 Corporal M'Mahon deposed to being out ,on patrol when some Boers opened fire from a Ka Air kraal. ' The Boers were driven off. ¿ Witness heard a report,,and
eomebody said : " Taylor's shot a nigger.1' Witness walked over, and saw a Kaffir 'anil Taylor standing by with a pistol In his
hand. " - ' ""
Trooper Lucas stated that after the en- gagement with "the '»Boors ho rode to tho kraal. Captain Taylor questioned a native, who said, " I kona." Witness heard a re- port, and the native fell dead. Taylor had
a pistol In his hand. !
Accused, in his defence, stated that on this occasion the natives had warned the Boers of the approach of^ the party, and one native was brought in and recognised as one of them who had been assisting the Boera. He refused to show or say any- thing, and was going off,' when he wes called hack, but would not return!. Wit- ness then fired, meaning to frighten him, but unfortunately fired too low, and the
native was killed. .
The court deliberated, and prisoner was Informed that he was acquitted of both
THE CASE OF THE GERMAN
On 17th February the court-martial sat to hear a charge of murder preferred against Lieutenant Handcock In having killed Mr. HeBse, a German missionary, while Llcutcffiint Morant was ? charged with the otfence of inciting to murder. The prosecution stated that witnesses would be called to prove that orr 23rd August, 1901, Missionary Hesse left Fort Edward for Pletcrsburg, and the motive for killing him was that he had got to know of the killing of eight Boors, and was on his way lo Petersburg to report the occurrence whon he was shot hy Hand- cock under orders from Morant.
The accused Morant deposed that on 23rd August eight Boers guilty of train wreck- ing and other crimes were shot by his orders. Hesse spoke to these Boers, and was told not to. Afterwards witness saw Hesse in a cart. He produced a pass signed by Taylor. Witness advised him not to go on to 'Pietersburg because of the Boers. Hesse saidheo would chance it, and by witness's advice he tied a white flag to the cart. Prisoner then returneu to the fort,-then went to Taylor's. and he afterwards saw Handcock at Brls towo's. Handcock went on to Schleis. Prisoner never suggested anything about killing the missionary. He was on good terms with him.
The accused Handcock made a statement as to his doings on that day. He said he loft on foot for Schleis in the morning, taking the road which branched off to the 'Plctersiburg-road, and then . across country. He lunched at Schleis, and then went to Brlstowc's till dusk, then back to the fort.
The court returned a verdict of not guilty In the case of hoth prisoners.
The result of the trials is that Morant. Handcock, Witton, and Picton were found guilty In connection with the chnrges of murdering prisoners. . Morant and Hand- cock were sentenced to be shot, and the sentence was duly carried out In Pre toria Gaol on 27th February. Lieutenant Picton was cashiered, and Major Lenehan reprimanded.-Router.